China is strengthening its energy ties with Central Asian countries through its Belt & Road regional development initiative, a Japanese Defence Ministry think tank has said.

Beijing is expected to continue such moves in order to ensure its international status at a time of intensifying rivalry between China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies, the National Institute for Defence Studies said in an annual report released Friday.

“China’s energy policy vis-a-vis Eurasia can be seen as being developed based on its own energy security demands, while also being seen as a pursuit of political influence, not just economic interest, through the use of bilateral and multilateral cooperative frameworks in the field of energy,” the report said.

In April, China launched a multilateral energy cooperation framework with 28 countries including oil and gas producers and pipeline hosts in Europe and Central Asia.

The report also said, “China’s active moves to advance into Europe caused a sense of alarm within the European region.”

“Although this alarm was expressed in various ways on the part of Europe, there is heightened concern about the security implications of China entering strategic European industries,” it said.

The China Security Report 2020 is the 10th in a series published by the think tank since 2010.